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The Jurupa oak, one of the world’s oldest living organisms, estimated to be between 13,000 and 18,000 years old, is at risk from a proposed development in California’s Jurupa Valley. This ancient tree, which is 90 feet long and 30 feet wide, grows primarily underground and has survived since the last ice age.

The city’s Planning Commission is considering a 1.4-square-mile project that would include a business park, 1,700 apartments and an elementary school. The buildings in that complex would be located just a few hundred yards from the ancient tree, raising concerns among environmentalists and locals.

“We have to be sure we’re not harming this plant,” said Aaron Echols of the California Native Plant Society. The oak was identified in the 1990s and its age was determined by researchers at UC Davis in 2009. It is a clonal organism that regenerates itself by sprouting shoots from its old root system.

Developer Richland Communities has promised to protect the tree with a 200-foot buffer zone and an endowment for its care, but environmentalists argue more protection is needed to mitigate potential damage from increased car traffic and urban heat.

The Planning Commission will vote on July 10 to approve or reject the project, deciding the future of the Jurupa oak. That decision could affect the survival of the tree, which has become a symbol of perseverance in the face of environmental challenges.